-From The Thailand Tourist Department(cutting room floor)-
Thailand Welcomes All Tourists

Wat Gaek Tai is an old Indian shrine hidden away in the backstreets of the garment
district. Not listed in any guidebooks, it would be take a page to explain how to get there
and tourists aren’t welcome anyway. The E on the ‘ENTRANCE’ sign above the rusty
metal gate has been tampered with so it now reads; ‘ I N TRANCE’. It’s a place where
deals are sealed, dreams are perceived and deaths are foretold. The gods here aren’t
worshipped; their presence is more akin to guard dogs. The narrow path is flanked by tall
statues of Indian deities that stare down at visitors, scornful eyes scaring away the craven
and the spiritless.
The further inside you venture the darker it gets, it’s like the light and air is being sucked
out by the cranky old air conditioning unit that makes a big fuss about keeping the place
slightly cooler than a foundry.
Hidden behind a dusty picture of the elephant-boy god Ganesha is a small door to a
secret room. No bigger than a broom cupboard, black dust covers the walls, steadfastly
refusing to give any hint of what colour lies beneath. A life-size bronze of a young Indian girl
dominates the room, her outstretched arm holding a solid gold cup. A low buzzing sound
seems to be emitting from her tilted head, sleepy eyes peer down at her large feet. On her
right cheek, a penny sized hole. Her name is Katoon Vishon
Visits are strictly by appointment only. The date, time and donation are all determined
at a consultation with the Temple’s abbot. The donation is made in personalised coins
that are hammered rather than cast or milled. Artisan Monks skilled in the ancient art
of coinage and engraving make them by placing a blank piece of metal or planchet of
the correct weight between two personalised dies, and then striking the upper die with
a hammer to replicate a unique image on both sides of the coin. The fee for the coin is
paid in gold, the amount, which is also decided by the abbot, is never the same.
As you place the money in the gold cup two teenage monks that have been standing
patiently on either side of you motion you to hold your head closer to the girl’s face and
to peer into the tiny porthole on h cheek. Apologising first, they gently grip your head
and hold it firmly in place because despite being cautioned not to, many can’t control
the urge to look away, something which is considered disrespectful and frowned upon.
A small pinpoint of white light appears deep inside the black hole; your one-eyed vision
locks on to it. Shimmering slightly the light starts moving and unwinds from its centre
at an ever-increasing distance. As the speed and intensity increases, trails of light appear
forming a spiral that quickly encompasses your entire field of vision.
Without warning the two monks suddenly begin chanting in low dulcet tones. Right on
cue the trails of light grow larger forming a spherical spiral, the curves have an infinite
number of revolutions, the distance between them decreases as they approach both its
poles and the centre becomes stained with vivid colours, red, blue, yellow and green.
Vivid kaleidoscopic patterns like dividing cells commit to more recognisable shapes and
you make out two eyes staring back at your own lone eye. The instinctive urge to pull
away is countered by the firm grip of the two young monks. Then as the eyes pull back
and the face around them appears you realise that that the stare isn’t menacing its more
confusion and more to the point the face isn’t a stranger it’s the one greets you every
morning in the mirror. But something still isn’t quite right, it takes you a moment to process
the anomaly and then capiche! The face that’s staring back at you and now grinning
like a maniac is yours but it’s a cartoon version of you, the realisation is punctuated by an
ear-splitting tacky game show buzzer.
Really though, you shouldn’t have been surprised to see that familiar face staring back at
you because you knew before you popped that creepy coin in the can that you’d be the
star attraction in this production. The big question that you coughed up the cash for is
one that has preyed on the mind of man since he first discovered his own mortality. Katoon
Vishun is the key that unlocks the age old question…‘how will it all end for me?’
Very little about the ritual is revealed beforehand so it’s a major shock when the prediction
playback appears in animated cartoon format. Scratch any expectations of arty
Japanese anime movies this is an Looney Toons production laced with clodhopping
slapstick routines, whacky sound effects and even canned laughter. If your final destiny
is being mowed down by a drunk driver late one night then the sloshed motorist would
be portrayed as a red-nosed puffy faced drunk with heavy eyes and a five o’clock shadow.
He’d be spluttering out the last lines of Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ when suddenly,
swerve… screeeeeech… CRASH!! The car rams into you at full speed, dragging you
several feet before leaving your body in a mangled mess at the side of the road, tire
marks across your body, birds and stars spinning above your head . The plinky-plonky
soundtrack stops abruptly, the canned laughter echoes as it fades out and a sombre piano
plays the Death March. A grinning Grim Reaper appears brandishing a hand written
‘GAME OVER’ sign.
In a dreary hospital room the gaunt body of a leukaemia patient is hooked up to multitude
of machines including the requisite life support machine, a mesotherapy
chemotherapy machine, he’s also plugged into a toaster, fax machine and vacuum cleaner
. Flowers in the vase next to the bed look lifeless and wilted, flies circle around a porcelain
bed pan, slits of bright white sunlight steal their way through the dusty venetian blinds
onto the patient’s wizened face if to taunt him one last time. A discordant interpretation
of the William Tell Overture fades in as the scene jerks and shifts into fast forward mode.
Faceless nurses dash in and out as they check his temperature, give him bed
baths, have hushed phone conversations with their boyfriends on the edge
of his bed and flick thru copies of Marie Claire. And all the while the patient
moans, groans and wastes away…. Until… an alarm bleeps, the toaster pops up
and the EKG machine flatlines. The William Tell ‘Overture’stops abruptly the
canned laughter echoes as it fades out and the sombre piano plays the Death
March. A grinning Grim Reaper appears brandishing a hand written ‘GAME
OVER’ sign.
Of course if the prophesy gets it completely wrong ain’t nobody going to turn
up at the temple wanting to fill out a complaint form. George kicks at the
temple door with a foot that’s been twisted around the wrong way, a car steering
wheel lodged in his chest and his face peppered with shards of broken
glass. He waves a stump at the abbot and screams
“ I want my fucking gold back!!”
“Pthu!!!!!” He spits out bits of broken teeth and dashboard.
“ You told me I’d die in my fucking sleep!”.

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